Meta announced it is expanding end-to-end encryption in Messenger, just days after news broke that the company gave Nebraska law enforcement Messenger chats between a 17-year-old girl and her mother discussing a medical abortion. Meta told Wired the announcement and the Nebraska case are unrelated, however, Meta would not have been able to access the chats if the girl and mother had used end-to-end encryption.
Meta has been testing and rolling out more privacy features within Messenger for a while now, including "Vanish Mode" and end-to-end encrypted group calls. Using end-to-end encryption is optional for users right now. But Meta announced in its blog post that it will start introducing end-to-end encrypted chats by default in a test group. The company is also testing secure storage of end-to-end encrypted chats, and removing Vanish Mode.
"We’ve had this date in the diary for months, but the short notice is because Messenger product teams have been finalizing the tests that are going live," Meta spokesperson Alex Dziedzan told Wired. "These tests will start Thursday. We want people to hear about these tests from us before they see changes in the app."
Law enforcement served Meta a search warrant in June requesting private data to help with its investigation. Meta said in a blog post that the warrant did not mention abortion, and was served before the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade. Still, the Messenger chats helped law enforcement prosecute the girl for allegedly inducing a miscarriage after the state's 20-week abortion limit.